With each passing week, the question rings louder.
Each time Denver’s second-year quarterback rolls up his sleeves, tightens his cleats and steers his Broncos to yet another improbable win, the clamor builds.
“Is Tim Tebow for real?!”
After six consecutive Denver wins, more people than ever believe the answer is “yes.”
More and more, that belief is expressed through irony. You’ve probably seen the NFL analyst remixes and the celebratory Tebowing in public. If Denver (8-5) beats New England (10-3) on Sunday afternoon, ironic praise will surely pour forth from the masses at historic levels.
And while so many sports fans focus on the Tebow’s outward expressions – the kneeling, the virginity, the gee-whiz vocabulary – Tebow himself seems zeroed in on winning two things – games and souls. For Tebow, achieving the former goal matters only so far as it expands his platform for his main evangelical mission.
After the Broncos beat the Bears on Dec. 12, linebacker Wesley Woodyard told the Denver Post that his quarterback had been giving just about the most reassuring motivational speech possible: “Tebow came to me and said, ‘Don’t worry about a thing,’ because God has spoken has spoken to him.'”
When discussing the Bronos secret to success, Tebow’s pastor was a little more blunt. “God favors Tim for all his hard work,” Wayne Henson told ESPN.com’s Rick Reilly.
It’s seems the question of whether Tebow can succeed as an NFL quarterback has been around for ages. The Broncos’ stunning recent success, however, pushes a truly ancient issue to the forefront: Is there a God who interacts with humans? If so, has that God rewarded Tebow’s faith with football success?
I’m no theologian, but my sports saavy buddy Steve Sullivan graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary and has been ordained as Baptist minister. Until the Bears game, Sullivan, who is a self-proclaimed progressive, chalked off much of Tebow’s success to luck. Surely, God’s concerned with more serious stuff than a quarterback’s prayers, he reasoned.
But the Broncos’ stunning comeback from a 10-0 deficit deep in the fourth quarter shook Sullivan’s presumptions, and inspired him to email me a new sermon – “Te-Ology: A Theological Look at the Tebow Phenomenon: Divine Revelation or Poor Tackling”
Here’s an excerpt, starting at the end of the Chicago-Denver game:
After a 59-yard field goal to tie the game, my soul quivered. Soon I found myself in overtime, almost begging God to have Urlacher sack Tebow for a loss. ‘Wait a minute!’ I thought. ‘God doesn’t listen to football prayers! Why am I doing this?’ The crisis of faith was full blown. I assumed that my desire for Tebow to fail was based solely on my objective understanding, and desire for the purity of the Christian faith and prayer.
But maybe it’s just because I think I have God figured out? Could it be my Tebow frustration is due to my own frustration over unanswered prayer? Or is it because, pray as I might, I never made the “Green” team on the Cloverdale Junior High football team?
Fortunately, I spent 5 years in seminary and know that wemust always approach theological quandaries such as this in a systematic way. We must weigh the options, and seek the truth among those options. So, after consulting with the Sports Seer, here is a summary of six possible “Te-ological” explanations for Tebow’s recent success:
1) Tim Tebow has been faithful to God and God is in some way blessing his servant’s prayers.
2) God isn’t really answering his prayers, but others are starting to believe He is. Teammates are becoming inspired, and opponents are becoming a little afraid. Thus the prayers are becoming self-fulfilling prophecies.
3) The success has nothing to do with God. Tebow has simply gotten lucky over and over again.
Eventually, the law of averages will have its revenge.
4) God likes to laugh. He’s helping Tebow not because Tebow asked, but because He enjoys messing with the minds of so many unbelievers.
5) God is also frustrated by the Tebow success. He’s trying to sack Tebow for a loss too, but can’t seem to wrap him up.
6) Tebow h(H?)imself is God, and I’m in big trouble.
I’m sure that all of this hype and controversy will blow over, and a few seasons from now, we’ll forget that our faith ever ventured into Mile-high Stadium.
That is, of course, unless Tebow carries these comebacks all the way through the playoffs. Then I’ll consider myself converted and will take the first Glory Train to the Rockies.